Manataka American Indian Council
LEGENDS OF OLD:
Flint-Man, the Search for Fire,
and Loon Woman
A Atsugewi Legend (Pit River Tribe)
At one time people had no flint for their arrows. They used bark for arrow-points, and it did not work well. One day Ground-Squirrel determined to get flint from Flint-Man, who owned it.
So he stole away while every one else was out hunting. He got to the house where Flint-Man lived, and went in. He said he was hungry, and Flint-Man gave him pounded flint to eat. He ate much of it, and then lay down to sleep. The pounded flint he had eaten made Squirrel sick, and he defecated blood.
Flint-Man saw this, and thought, "Well, he will die."
He came over and looked at Squirrel, and thought he was dead: so he left him, and went out. As soon as he was gone, Squirrel jumped up, for he had been shamming. He took a lot of flints, made them up in a bundle, and ran away. Flint-Man soon saw him, and gave chase. He nearly caught up with him, when Squirrel threw the flints into a hole in the ground, and jumped in after them. Flint-Man came up and jumped in after him; but Squirrel was out at the other end, and away before he could reach him.
Flint-Man gave chase again; but, as before, Squirrel jumped into a hole and got away. Then Squirrel traveled far under ground; but when he came up, Flint-Man saw him, and continued to chase. Five times Squirrel thus eluded his pursuer; and then the latter gave up, and went back. Squirrel, however, kept on under ground.
When he got back to the house, he hid the flints in the bushes, all but one, a knife, which he tied to a string, and hung round his neck, so that it was on his back behind, where no one could see it. He went in and sat down, but the others had not got back from the hunt. By and by they returned, and brought meat. They gave some to Squirrel, who secretly cut it up with his knife. They saw this, and asked what he was doing, but he wouldn't tell them. Next day he went out and took all the flints he had brought. He took them to the house, and gave them to the people, giving one to each.
"With these," he said, "you can kill deer better, and can cut up the meat."
Then all day the people sat there and chipped their flints,
making arrow-points. And next day they all went out to hunt, and with the new
points they killed great quantities of deer,--so many that there were five deer
apiece when they divided up the lot.
After this one day Dog went to get fire, for people until then had eaten their food raw. He traveled far to the west, to where Fire-Woman lived, for she owned all the fire. He climbed up on the roof of her house, and lay quietly near the smoke-hole. The sparks came out in crowds; and Dog held his ear over the opening, and caught a spark in it, and so in the other ear as well. He had put a little dry tinder in his ears before starting. Then he ran home.
The fire in Fire-Woman's house began to die down; and she said then, "Let the fire Dog carries go out."
Then Blue Jay said, "Qas!" and it began to rain. Dog held his
head on one side to keep the rain out of his ear, and ran as fast as he could.
When he reached the top of the hill just west of Burney Valley, it stopped
raining. He got back to the house about sunset, as the people were eating
supper. They gave him some, but he did not tell them what he had done. Next
morning Dog got up, went to the centre of the sweat-house, and held his ear down
to the ground, and took out the plug he had put in, and the coals fell out.
People could cook their food now. So they roasted some meat, and said, "That
tastes good." Then they went out hunting.
Next night Wildcat had a bad dream, and went out to the little house near by, where the two sisters of all the people in the big house slept. These two women were Eagle and Loon (Hak!ā'lisimari?mi). Wildcat crawled in and slept there, but did not touch the women.
In the morning Loon went out, got some pitch and smeared it on herself, so that she might know who it was who had come in the night. Next night Wildcat went again to his sisters' hut, and this time had connection with Loon; and in the morning when he left, some of his fur was left sticking to the pitch. He came back to the house, and lay down so that no one could see where the hair had been pulled off. He pretended to be asleep. Loon found who had come to her in the night, and was angry.
She went outdoors, and said, "Bring me a bundle of bark to
carry fire in," and at
once the fire blazed up all around the sweat-house. Every time she said this, a great flame shot up in front of the door.
The people inside grew afraid at this, and Coyote said, "Who has done this to our sister?" Then he turned to Wildcat and said, "You had better go off with her, or she will burn us all up."
Wildcat did not want to move; but they rolled him over and saw where his fur had been pulled out. Then everybody said, "You did it!"
Then Butterfly got up, removed Wildcat's membrane and put a small one in its
place, and sent Wildcat out, telling him to return as soon as possible. Loon was very anxious to make Wildcat her husband at once, and so made night come on quickly. They camped then; but, in spite of his endeavors, Wildcat could not satisfy Loon. Early in the morning, while Loon was asleep, Wildcat got up, took a log of wood, laid it beside her, and ran away.
As soon as Wildcat had left, Spider began to make a net, and had finished it by the time Wildcat returned. Coyote got in first, and then all the others, after which Spider drew them all up into the sky, except Eagle, who flew away.
Loon by and by waked up, and, discovering the cheat, ran back to the sweat-house, sending fire ahead of her to burn every one up.
She saw all the people, her brothers, going up in the net, and called out, "Why do you leave me? You had better take me back!"
Now, Coyote, to whom she spoke, was her father; and he felt sorry for her, and wanted to see her: so he made a tiny hole in the bottom of the net to peek through, and immediately it burst, and all fell down into the blazing house. Loon was watching, and at once made a seed-beater out of some twigs; and when pretty soon Coyote's heart popped in the fire and shot up into the air, she let it go, but caught the next one; and so on, catching all, as she thought. She strung them on a string.
One heart popped out, that she missed; that was
Wood-Worm's, and it fell far over toward Shasta; another popped, and was missed,
and this was Butterfly, and it fell far to the east. Blue-Stone was also missed.
Meanwhile Eagle was not burned, for she was flying about, weeping. Up to this
time the world had been flat; but as Eagle went about, she made the mountains.
Loon took all the hearts she had strung, and put them about her neck as a necklace and then went to one lake after another, till finally she came to one at the head of Butte Creek, and there she stayed.
Meanwhile Eagle went all over the world making mountains, and looking for the hearts that had escaped. For a small hill she would throw up the earth once; but for a large mountain, three times.
By and by she reached the country toward the north. Here two women had gone out to get wood. They came to a deer-lick, which was formed from the tears of one of the hearts, that belonging to Wood-Worm.
The two girls were Beads, and they heard the sound of weeping, and at last found the heart. After much difficulty, they dug out the heart, which then became just like a person, and learned from him all about the way he had come to be there.
Then Wood-Worm married the two Bead girls. Eagle came along this way, wearing pitch in mourning for her brothers; and when she found her brother Wood-Worm here, she returned to near the head of Butte Creek. Here lived two boys (some sort of small brown water-birds), and she asked them if they had seen Loon. They said that sometimes they had seen her on the lake, and had heard her cry.
They said she had a necklace about her neck, and that she looked at herself all the time in the water. Eagle asked them if they could kill Loon, and they said they thought they could if they had arrow-points of deer-bone. One wanted bone from deer killed at a time when their hair was turning red, the other when they dropped their antlers.
So Eagle went off to get the bones. She brought them; and the
two men then took their arrows, and went out in a tule boat before dawn. They
hid in the tule swamp near the edge of the lake. The younger said, "I'll shoot
first." The elder then said, " No, I'll shoot first, for you might miss." They
finally agreed that both should shoot at once.
At dawn Loon appeared, and the two shot, and she dove immediately. They watched, and by and by Loon came up, dead. So they took her back to Eagle, who took off the string of hearts around Loon's neck; then she skinned the loon and stuffed it, and said that loons must cry and laugh in spring-time.
Eagle then hunted about all over the world, till she found the other two hearts, those of Butterfly and of Blue-Stone, and then came back with them all to the sweat-house, which she rebuilt. This was near Pitville. She then took pine- boughs and fixed up the inside of the house nicely, and laid the hearts in the water in the river near by. Then she went into the house, and, lying face downwards, slept. In the early dawn all the hearts came to fife again, and all came trooping into the house. She lay quietly, without looking, until she had counted them all. Then she got up, and they all went on living as before.
~From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories.
Secured by Roland B. Dixon during the summers of 1900 and 1903, while engaged in work among the tribes of northeastern California for the Huntington Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. The chief informants were Charley Snook, Charley Green and "Old Wool."
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